Assembling the perfect wardrobe takes a lot of time, effort, and of course, money. When done the right way, it is an example of selective and ongoing curating; the building up of a collection that comes to frame and define how you present yourself to the world. A meaningful, practical, and stylish wardrobe is not mere decoration or flash; it is equal to the art on your walls or the books in your study. These things are all extensions and expressions of the stuff of life and the things we value in the physical world.
Of course, acquiring the ideal wardrobe is only one half of the battle. The other half is properly looking after your investments. Keeping your clothing and accessories in great shape takes a little work but that effort will pay off in long-term enjoyment and in the wonderful, classic patina that only time can provide.
The natural aging of fabric and leather and the wearing down of cuffs and elbows are normal; where did you think elbow patches come from? Still, having to deal with these inevitabilities should be held off as long as possible and doing so allows your possessions to keep their appeal while still developing the character that makes you want to keep them around for years to come.
First and foremost, invest in good wooden hangers. This is a must – there is no way around it. Solid wood hangers support your garments, help preserve their shape, and ultimately protect your investment.
Using a solid and well sized wood hanger (suit hangers for suits, slimmer hangers for shirts and felted bar hangers from trousers) will add years to your clothing and help protect your garments from snags, wrinkles and stains.
While any sturdy wooden hanger is better than wire or plastic, hands down, some of the finest we have ever used come from OTC sponsor Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project. These hangers are the equivalent of closet furniture and are built to last. While this is clearly a luxury suit hanger and not inexpensive, as an investment in your fine garments a proper hanger will probably outlast you and be very much worth the cost.
Now that you have some good hangers, use them. When done with your clothes for the day, hang everything up. If something is dirty, throw it in the laundry or take it to the dry cleaner – just don’t pile things up on the floor.
Having a jaw-dropping closet like Ralph Lauren’s is the dream of many a style-focused man, but properly maintaining your possessions is rule number one no matter your budget.
Whatever its square footage, make a point of keeping your closet in order. Garments need room to breathe and space to air out, so try to avoid crowding.
You should able to identify and reach anything in your closet. For items on upper shelves, keep a folding footstool handy. If you are able to do so, consider investing in a customized closet system designed to maximize your closet’s unique shape and size. There is a surprisingly wide range of possibilities out there, from fully custom built-ins to pre-packaged options.
A clean and orderly closet is both inspiring and practical. If you open the door and see a curated collection of well-organized favorites, getting dressed is an enjoyable and fulfilling process.
DRY CLEAN or BRUSH?
In general, most suits and sport coats only need to be dry-cleaned once a year or so. Delicate fabrics and linens may need more attention, but on the whole brushing your garments with a clothing brush will remove most dust and dirt. Quick attention to spot cleaning can address minor stains and help avoid unnecessary trips to the cleaners. If your suit is looking a little too lived in, consider taking it in for a pressing only. It will look refreshed without being unnecessarily exposed to damaging dry cleaning chemicals.
In most cases, everyday wrinkles will work themselves out in between wearings, but a tried and true road-warier steaming can help too – just hang your day’s outfit next to the shower. Of course, some people choose to invest in an actual steamer. If you wear a suit regularly, it can indeed be a smart investment.
Though some people insist on dry cleaning their dress shirts, we are hardcore advocates of laundering them at home. When it comes to washing shirts, cold water is usually best, but always defer to the shirt’s care tag first. Iron on a slightly cooler setting with steam and lay off the starch.
If you feel compelled to use it, starch only those areas that tend to become unruly, like cuffs, collars, and plackets. If you regularly send your shirts off to the cleaners, pass on the starch there as well. Commercial presses do a fine job of working out wrinkles without the need for extra chemicals that can over time degrade natural fabrics. When ironing at home, always remember to iron the backside of the shirt’s collar. For cuffs, iron the backside of barrel cuffs and the reverse (inside side) of French cuffs – also called double cuffs.
FOOTWEAR & CARE
Nowhere else does the concept of “investment clothing” hold forth than with footwear. A good pair of quality business shoes can easily cost several hundred dollars and head north from there. Though it can be a big financial hit up front, good shoes will always be in style and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime. Custom shoes quickly reach into the thousands of dollars, and thought they may seem an extravagance (and for many of us they are), custom shoes in addition to looking great, will help keep your feet healthy.
As a general rule, you absolutely get what you pay for when it comes to good footwear. Buy the best you can afford and consider shoes as a capital investment. Keep your footwear in top notch shape and they will pay you back in dividends for years to come.
In addition to protecting your dress shoes’ leather with regular polishing, always use shoe trees. There are many variations, but the best are full-sized and made from untreated cedar. The shoe tree will absorb moisture and help maintain your shoe’s shape.
Fancy varnished trees are fine too – we are seriously partial the kind with heavy brass knobs or pull rings.